The creator of CartoonHooligans tells Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar how his cartoon parodies have drawn more than a million subscribers to his YouTube channel
CARTOONHOOLIGANS, better known as CarHoo, is not your average YouTube cartoon channel. It is the first Malaysian YouTube channel to have reached more than a million subscribers.
The last I checked, there were 1,046,183 subscribers! These come from all over — the United States, Britain, France and even Mexico and Brazil. Their age ranges between 18 and 35, and are mostly males. Why is that you may wonder? It’s probably because the cartoons are about superheroes, which appeal more to males.
For those who aren’t familiar with CarHoo, it is a YouTube channel created by Bram Lee Chin Horng, who’s born and bred in Sungai Petani, Kedah. Lee creates and uploads animated parody videos on his YouTube channel, mostly of superhero mash-ups.
His most successful video is “Dragon Ball Z VS Marvel Superheroes - What If Battle (DBZ Parody)” which has been viewed more than 41 million times so far. My favourite, however, is “What if this happened in Marvel’s Civil War (Parody) featuring Spiderman”.
The parody starts off with Team Ironman and Team Captain America about to face off because well, as we all know, in the 2016 movie Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers fell into opposing factions — one led by Captain America and the other by Ironman. But Spiderman mistakenly hits Black Panther who is on the same team. He is apologetic but claims he got confused because each team does not have uniforms. Thus, there is a ceasefire until the next day to have uniforms for everyone. When they assemble the next day, Team Captain America is all dressed like him while Team Ironman appears in robotic suits, just like Ironman. Their formidable appearance spooks Team Captain America, who flees in the blink of an eye!
Besides being funny, the animation and graphics are of exceptional quality! No wonder Lee managed to garner a huge following in just two years.
What also fascinated me was the viewers’ comments. Most happily lapped up the parodies and even suggested other parodies or animations they would like to watch.
On why he created parodies of existing Marvel and DC Comics superheroes and cartoons (since he is an accomplished animator and can draw and paint very well), Lee said that it is all part of his plan.
In his vision, Lee, who studied CG (Computer Graphics) Animation at the One Academy, felt that he needed to make a name in the industry first before coming out with his own creations. Those who have been following his YouTube channel would undoubtedly be aware of his signature animation by now. His die-hard fans even accused the people he collaborated with — JinnyBoy TV — of plagiarism when their co-produced work, “Superhero First World Problems - Phone Charger”, was uploaded.
Now that he has made a name for himself, Lee is ready to include his own original cartoon characters. The irony is that now with the surge of popularity, Lee cannot cope on his own anymore and has to employ staff to help him produce more videos. So essentially, the cartoons will no longer be wholly created by Bram Lee himself.
HOW IT BEGAN
Lee had always loved cartoons, especially Batman and Superman, ever since he was in primary school. To him, these two superheroes especially epitomise manliness and strength — Lee likes his superheroes that way. As he grew up in a small town, however, he couldn’t get hold of any DC Comics. He could only get Manga (comics from Japan) and Manhua (comics from China). These comics and the way the stories were told influenced many of his early artwork.
At 15, he entered the Pelindung Nature competition organised by Art Square Creation (the publisher of Gempak), a local comic/gaming/hobby magazine. Having won the competition, Lee had a chance to be a freelance artist for the company. To his frustration at the time, his artwork kept getting rejected by John Pek a.k.a Apoh, the creator of Mat Gempak. Pek told him his artwork needed more refining and gave him a lot of advice for his future.
Looking back, Lee said that he is very thankful to Pek for preparing him for the real world. Lee went on to work for a local CG studio as a compositor and lighting artist. His stint at the company left him frustrated because his clients had total control over his work. Thus, Lee became a freelance 3D artist in his spare time. He wanted to explore different art styles and have more fun in general.
VENTURING INTO ANIMATION
When he first began to create the superheroes cartoon parodies on CarHoo, Lee included adult humour that didn’t go down well with many viewers. Sure there were those who liked them but there were also many who left negative comments. This discouraged him and he took a 10-month break from producing cartoon parodies on CarHoo. It was his friend and fellow Malaysian YouTuber, JinnyBoy, who encouraged him to work on his cartoons again. He also advised him to make the content of his cartoon suitable for all.
As his YouTube channel became more popular and received more and more subscribers, Lee decided to quit his day job and work on CarHoo full time. These days it takes him between two and three weeks to produce a funny video. He still does the drawings himself but employs someone to do the inking process as it is tedious and time-consuming. Cartoon parodies with fight scenes are more complex and take even longer to complete — between one and two months.
“These days,” says Lee, “It’s all about collaborations.”
He has worked with various YouTubers both from Malaysia as well as from other countries to produce cartoon animations. He is currently collaborating with The Epic Voice Guy on “How Captain America: Civil War Should Have Ended”. He also works with Timothy Banfield, an American voice talent who does voiceovers for many of his videos.
“Initially, I used local talents, mainly friends, for the voiceovers but I received negative feedback about that. They found it weird that my superheroes cartoon characters, who are mostly Americans, speak English with a Malaysian accent. So that was how I began collaborating with the American voice talents,” Lee explained.
Now that he has got more than a million subscribers for CarHoo, Lee is targeting the 10 million mark next. He strikes me as one with a cool head on his shoulders. His advice to budding Malaysian YouTube creators, “Yes, you can do whatever you like but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. You must know what you want to achieve your target and then, work hard at it. Above all, enjoy what you do.”
Asked if he had anything to say to his followers, Lee said: “Yes. Keep watching!”